GENET archive


2-Plants: GE plants producing human therapeutics may lower production costs

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TITLE:  Monsanto scientists demonstrate potential new approach to
        developing lower-cost drugs
SOURCE: Monsanto press release
DATE:   February 29, 2000

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Monsanto Scientists Demonstrate Potential New Approach To Developing 
Lower-Cost Drugs
Research Published in Nature Biotechnology First to Demonstrate 
Production of Human Therapeutic in Chloroplasts

ST. LOUIS - In research published in the March edition of Nature 
Biotechnology (volume 18, number 3, pages 333-338), Monsanto 
scientists have demonstrated how genetic engineering could 
potentially be used to lower the cost of production for some types of 
pharmaceuticals, which may help to lower the price of potentially 
life-saving new medicines in the future. The research demonstrates 
that the genetic engineering of chloroplasts in plants is one 
potential approach to producing pharmaceutical proteins more cost 
effectively than through conventional means.

Plant cells have three types of subcellular compartments Ń called 
organelles Ń that possess genetic material, or DNA: the nucleus, the 
plastid and the mitochondrion. Commercially useful plant genetic 
engineering has focused on the insertion of genes into nuclear DNA. 
This new research from Monsanto is the first to demonstrate the 
potential for using the chloroplast Ń the most abundant plastid type 
found in leaves Ń for producing a pharmaceutical protein through 
genetic engineering.

"Conventional production means are costly, and what the genetic 
engineering of plastids may offer is a less expensive, more efficient 
way to produce important pharmaceutical proteins," said Jeffrey 
Staub, Manager of the Plastid Transformation Program for Monsanto and 
primary author of the Nature Biotechnology paper. "This, in turn, 
could eventually lead to lower-cost drugs that might help make such 
life-saving medicines more accessible to those who need them."

The Monsanto research team produced human somatotropin, a hormone 
most often used to treat hypopituitary dwarfism in children, in the 
chloroplasts of tobacco plants. Human somatotropin is currently 
produced commercially through the use of genetically engineered 
bacteria, a conventional, but costly, approach widely used to produce 
certain types of pharmaceuticals.

"While research on genetic engineering of pharmaceutical proteins in 
plants is not new, the focus on chloroplasts is. This is the first 
therapeutic protein produced through genetic engineering of 
chloroplasts," said Staub. "In this initial research, we have 
produced proteins in amounts more than 300-fold greater than obtained 
with traditional plant genetic engineering."

"Taken together, our findings are a significant step forward. 
However, we recognize that this research is preliminary and much more 
additional research remains before we know if this will be a 
commercially viable technology for the pharmaceutical industry."

The initial research presented in the Nature Biotechnology article 
was conducted by Monsanto Company scientists including scientists 
from a separate Monsanto business unit, Integrated Protein 
Technologies (IPT), that is using more advanced nuclear-based genetic 
engineering to create pharmaceutical drugs in plants.

The March edition of Nature Biotechnology will be available on 
newsstands March 1. As a life sciences company, Monsanto is committed 
to finding solutions to the growing global needs for food and health 
by sharing common forms of science and technology among agriculture, 
nutrition and health. The company's 30,200 employees worldwide make 
and market high-value agricultural products, pharmaceuticals and food 
ingredients. For more information on Monsanto, access

For more information, please contact:
Bryan Hurley  +1-314-694-8387)


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